DC Circuit Court of Appeals Strikes Down Obamacare Contraception Mandate

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Hobby Lobby Store owners also sued for exemption due to the contraception mandate. Will these suits be successful when the cases reach the Supreme Court? Logo by Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby Store owners also sued for exemption due to the contraception mandate. Will these suits be successful when the cases reach the Supreme Court? Logo by Hobby Lobby

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Strikes Down Mandate in a 2-1 Decision

The majority of the court held the rights of the Gilardis has been violated by the mandate. However, the judges refused to find corporations themselves have (and can exercise) religious rights.

Writing for the majority, Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote the brothers were given a choice. Either they could become compliant in what their religious beliefs consider to be a “grave moral wrong” or they could refuse to comply with the mandate, become subject to fines of $14million, and cripple their business.

The majority found the approval of, and payment for, contraceptive methods by the brothers would be a cognizable and substantial burden on their free exercise of religion.

Judge Brown also described the arguments made by the government as “nebulous” and “unconvincing.” She wrote that the government failed to prove how protecting the rights of women can extend to forcing persons to subsidize the procreative practises of women.

The dissenting judge, Harry T. Edwards, asked what was to prevent another company from seeking an exemption for vaccinations because those go against their religious beliefs. Edwards also wrote the mandate does not encourage Gilardis’ employees to use contraception any more than allowing the employees to provide their own contraceptive measures by paying them a wage.

Edwards also found that nothing in the mandate prevents the brothers from speaking out against contraception, sterilization, and abortion.

Other Circuit Appellate Courts Have Ruled on the Mandate

This is not the first decision rendered by a Circuit Court of Appeals. Appellate courts in the Third and Sixth Circuits have already found the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Hobby Lobby case, issued a temporary injunction preventing the Green family, owners of the hobby store chain, from having to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees.

Supreme Court on Religious Freedom, Contraception

Lawyers for the Gilardis are contemplating asking the Supreme Court to hear their clients’ case. Despite being successful, they will argue the decision did not go far enough. They want the court to find not only are the Gilardis exempt from the Obamacare requirements, but that corporations themselves can be exempt from the legislative requirements on religious grounds.

With divided decisions where many of the courts’ panels were split, it is likely the Supreme Court will decide to hear the matter of whether the mandate does violate religious rights and whether corporations are capable of exercising religious rights independent of the rights of their owners.

Resources:

US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Francis A. Gilardi et. al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services et. al. . (2013). Accessed November 7, 2013.

Legal Information Institute. Free exercise of religion protected. (2013). Accessed November 7, 2013.

The Christian Post. DC Circuit Court Strikes Down Obamacare Mandate. (2013). Accessed November 7, 2013.

Catholic San Francisco. Court rules on religious rights of for-profit entities. (2013). Accessed November 7, 2013.

Jurist. Puzzling Corporations: The Affordable Care Act Contraceptive Mandate. (2013). Accessed November 7, 2013.

Freshway Foods. Our Story. (2013). Accessed November 7, 2013.

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